Voiceless retroflex fricative

Voiceless retroflex fricative
IPA number 136
Entity (decimal) ʂ
Unicode (hex) U+0282
Kirshenbaum s.
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The voiceless retroflex sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʂ. Like all the retroflex consonants, the IPA letter is formed by adding a rightward-pointing hook to the bottom of the ess (the letter used for the corresponding alveolar consonant). A distinction can be made between laminal, apical, and sub-apical articulations. Only one language, Toda, appears to have more than one voiceless retroflex sibilant, and it distinguishes subapical palatal from apical postalveolar retroflex sibilants; that is, both the tongue articulation and the place of contact on the roof of the mouth are different.


Features of the voiceless retroflex fricative:

  • Its manner of articulation is sibilant fricative, which means it is generally produced by channeling air flow along a groove in the back of the tongue up to the place of articulation, at which point it is focused against the sharp edge of the nearly clenched teeth, causing high-frequency turbulence.
  • Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords. In some languages the vocal cords are actively separated, so it is always voiceless; in others the cords are lax, so that it may take on the voicing of adjacent sounds.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.


In the following transcriptions, diacritics may be used to distinguish between apical [ʂ̺] and laminal [ʂ̻].

The commonality of [ʂ] cross-linguistically is 6% in a phonological analysis of 2155 languages [1]

Abkhazамш[amʂ]'day'See Abkhaz phonology
Adygheпшъашъэ [pʂ̻aːʂ̻a] 'girl'Laminal.
ItalianMarked accents of Emilia-Romagna[2]sali[ˈʂäːli]'you go up'Apical;[2] may be [s̺ʲ] or [ʃ] instead.[2] It corresponds to [s] in standard Italian. See Italian phonology
KhantyMost northern dialectsшаш[ʂɑʂ]'knee'Corresponds to a voiceless retroflex affricate /ʈ͡ʂ/ in the southern and eastern dialects.
Lower Sorbian[3][4]glažk[ˈɡläʂk]'glass'
Mandarin/shí[ʂ̺ɻ̩˧˥]'stone'Apical. See Mandarin phonology
Mapudungun[5]trukur[ʈ͡ʂʊ̝ˈkʊʂ]'fog'Possible allophone of /ʐ/ in post-nuclear position.[5]
NorwegianNorsk[nɔʂk]'Norwegian'Allophone of the sequence /ɾs/ in many dialects, including Urban East Norwegian. See Norwegian phonology
PashtoSouthern dialectښودل[ʂ̺odəl]'to show'
PolishStandard[6]szum [ʂ̻um] 'rustle'After voiceless consonants it is also represented by rz. When written so, it can be instead pronounced as the voiceless raised alveolar non-sonorant trill by few speakers.[7] It is transcribed /ʃ/ by most Polish scholars. See Polish phonology
Southeastern Cuyavian dialects[8]schowali[ʂxɔˈväli]'they hid'Some speakers. It's a result of hypercorrecting the more popular merger of /ʂ/ and /s/ into [s] (see szadzenie).
Suwałki dialect[9]
RomanianMoldavian dialects[10]șură[ʂurə]'barn'Apical.[10] See Romanian phonology
Transylvanian dialects[10]
Russian[6]шут[ʂut̪]'jester'See Russian phonology
Serbo-Croatianшума / šuma[ʂûmä]'forest'
Swedishfors[fɔʂ]'rapids'Allophone of the sequence /rs/ in many dialects, including Central Standard Swedish. See Swedish phonology
Toda[12][pɔʂ]'(clan name)'Subapical
Torwali[13]ݜےݜ[ʂeʂ]'thin rope'
Ubykh[ʂ̺a]'head'See Ubykh phonology
Upper SorbianSome dialects[14][15]Used in dialects spoken in villages north of Hoyerswerda; corresponds to [ʃ] in standard language.[3] See Upper Sorbian phonology
VietnameseSouthern dialects[16]sữa[ʂɨə˧ˀ˥]'milk'See Vietnamese phonology
ZapotecTilquiapan[17]Allophone of /ʃ/ before [a] and [u].

See also


  1. Phoible.org. (2018). PHOIBLE Online - Segments. [online] Available at: http://phoible.org/parameters.
  2. 1 2 3 Canepari (1992), p. 73.
  3. 1 2 Šewc-Schuster (1984:40–41)
  4. Zygis (2003:180–181, 190–191)
  5. 1 2 Sadowsky et al. (2013), p. 90.
  6. 1 2 Hamann (2004:65)
  7. Karaś, Halina. "Gwary polskie - Frykatywne rż (ř)". Archived from the original on 2013-03-13. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  8. Taras, Barbara. "Gwary polskie - Gwara regionu".
  9. Karaś, Halina. "Gwary polskie - Szadzenie".
  10. 1 2 3 Pop (1938), p. 31.
  11. Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:374)
  12. Ladefoged (2005:168)
  13. Lunsford (2001:16–20)
  14. Šewc-Schuster (1984:41)
  15. Zygis (2003:180)
  16. Thompson (1959:458–461)
  17. Merrill (2008:109)


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